Last week, the Partnership hosted community leaders and volunteers for another Early Childhood Bus Tour. This event, sponsored by Mechanics and Farmers Bank, is a way for us to invite participants to learn more about our work throughout Durham and view the community through the lens of early childhood.
We kicked off the event by asking attendees to build Blast-Off to Kindergarten Kits, which is a key part of the Transition to Kindergarten Initiative and one of many volunteer opportunities here at the Partnership. The Bus Tour seemed particulary timely since that morning’s paper featured a front page story about the benefits of early education! After introductions and kit-building, attendees joined us as we traveled to Child Care Services Association (CCSA), Bethesda Baptist Child Care Center, and Leathers-Meachem Head Start.
The first stop on the tour was just across the hall from us, at CCSA. We split into two groups to hear more about two of the programs at CCSA that receive Smart Start funding. In one room, attendees heard about the Child Care Referral Program and learned how parents get assistance in finding and choosing a high-quality child care program to best fit their needs. In the other room, representatives from the Smart Start Scholarship Program discussed how the funding assists parents who are working or in school pay for child care. Attendees also heard a moving parent testimony from a single mother who was able to continue working knowing that her two children were receiving the highest quality care, all thanks to the Scholarship program.
The next stop on the tour was Bethesda Baptist Child Care Center, where participants learned about Early Childhood Outreach (EChO), a program that is based out of the Exchange Family Center and is another one of our funded partners. EChO services provide support for children with challenging behavior, through both individual work with children and teacher coaching and assistance. Attendees also heard from a teacher who has received EChO coaching, and she made it clear that her teaching style, classroom, students and whole school has benefitted immensely from working with EChO.
Our final stop was the Leathers-Meachem Head Start center, one of our community partners in the NC Pre-K program. Participants heard from Derric Boston, Health Manager at Durham Head Start, about how Head Start services support families with young children. They also learned about one of our Smart Start-funded programs that supports professional development for early childhood educators. The WAGE$ program, part of CCSA, provides financial assistance, incentivizes pursuing further education, and reduces teacher turnover. Tashika Harris, a teacher at Leathers-Meachem and a participant in the WAGE$ program, spoke about how the program has impacted her life and career. Last but not least, attendees then had an opportunity to observe a couple of NC Pre-K classrooms to see some enthusiastic 4-year-olds in action!
All participants left the bus tour with a deeper understanding of the scope of the Partnership’s work, as well as the need for community-wide commitment and efforts to ensure that every child in Durham enters school healthy and ready to succeed. One way you can join this work is to become even more informed, involved and invested! Sign up for our email list for news and advocacy alerts, subscribe to this blog, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, join us on a future bus tour, and check back often for information about upcoming activities and volunteer opportunities at the Partnership.